How to grow your own sprouts

Sprouts I've had some emails asking how I went about growing mung bean sprouts. Sprouts have to be the easiest way to get some homegrown greenery in your life so I thought I'd share what I've learned so far.

What is sprouting?
Sprouting is the fine art of soaking, draining and rinsing seeds and beans until they germinate, or sprout.

The most common kind you see supermarkets are alfalfa and mung beans but there's gazillions of sproutables, such as adzuki beans, broccoli seeds, chickpeas/garbanzos, hemp seeds, lentils, quinoa seeds and sunflower seeds.

Why should I grow spouts?

  • They're dead tasty – they're magic on sandwiches (my favourite chicken, alfalfa and avocado) and have a magic way of pulling a salad together. Try the Leon superfood salad if you need convincing!
  • They're cheap – a little bag of alfalfa costs £1 in my local supermarket and I get a maximum 3 salads out of it. 100g of alfalfa seed is £2.70 and you can grow piles more.
  • They're good for you – see below.
  • They're easy greens –You don't need a garden. You don't need dirt. You can grow them any time of year. They hate direct sunlight so they're perfect if you live in the dreary north.

What you do need is…

  • Water – as they need to be rinsed twice a day. So if you live in Australia or lived there for a long time you'll have to deal with great stabs of guilt every time you rinse.
  • A decent memory – it's so easy to forget to bathe the little fellas!

Why are they so good for you?
I don't know. I just like how they taste! Allow me to cut and paste some information from the internet.

Sprouts are highly nutritious because "they contain all elements a plant needs for life and growth." This is from World's Healthiest Foods:

“In the life of a plant, sprouting is a moment of great vitality and energy. The seed, after having remained quiet for an often long period of time, becomes more and more active and begins its journey up through the topsoil and into the open air. When it sprouts, a healthy seed activates many different metabolic systems. It converts some of its sugar content into vitamin C, to act as an antioxidant in the new open air environment. It also begins to synthesize a variety of new enzymes… On a gram for gram basis, sprouts are richer in vitamin C than the older, more mature plants they eventually become, because this moment in their lifecyle calls for a high level of vitality. For you to get the benefit of healthy sprouts, the sprouts need to be very fresh, and carefully refrigerated and handled.”

Now I shall quoth lazily from Wikipedia:

“Sprouts are rich in digestible energy, bio available vitamins, minerals, amino acids, proteins, beneficial enzymes and phytochemicals, as these are necessary for a germinating plant to grow.”

What do you grow them in?
You can be as cheap or as fancy pants as you like. Sprouts will grow in a simple glass jar or in a made-for-purpose sprouting vessel, like a tiered plastic one.

Where do I get the seeds and beans from?
I got my first packet of radish seeds from B&Q, a popular hardware shoppe here in merry old Britain. I later Googled "sprouting seeds" and ordered more from Living Food, a Cornwall company. The seeds are organic which is great because according to Wikipedia, "with all seeds, care should be taken that they are intended for sprouting or human consumption rather than sowing. Seeds intended for sowing may be treated with chemical dressings."

Now how does one sprout?

  1. Soak your seeds in a little dish for time period that is correct for your chosen sprout type – it will usually say so on the packet. I just soak mine overnight whatever the type.
  2. Drain the seeds into mesh sieve, rinse and drain again.
  3. Transfer to your clean jar or sprouting container. Spread them out evenly.
  4. Cover the container (with muslin or cling film or a lid) to prevent the sprouts from drying out. (Note: Most instructions I've read have this step but my three-tier sprouter doesn't have a cover. The top layer of sprouts seem to be working okay without being covered)
  5. For the specified number of days, rinse and drain the sprouts every morning and evening to prevent mould forming. I do this by emptying the contents into a fine mesh sieve, rinsing, draining then shaking thoroughly then putting back into the jar/sprouter.
  6. After the specified number of days your sprouts are ready for ‘harvesting’. Rinse the sprouts with fresh water and transfer to a bowl.
  7. Eat immediately for maximum nutrition or store in the fridge for up to a few days.

Note: Let me know if any of the above makes no sense or seems grossly inaccurate, as I woke up at 4am today for no good reason and my brain is mush!

Now here's some photographical evidence.

This was my first ever batch of radish seeds, in for the soak

After a couple of days they were coming along nicely…

… until disaster struck. Mould!
Okay it was an entirely preventable disaster. I kept forgetting to rinse them.

Despite this setback I'd seen it was possible for those little puppies to grow even during the miserable armpit that was February 2010.

Keen to try other varieties, I took the plunge and spent £20 on a three-tier sprouter.

Radish, mung beans and snow peas all soaked and ready to go

Snow peas after about five days

A mix of mung beans and snow pea sprouts, ready for scoffing

Alfalfa on a salad. Sure it looks kinda hairy but it tastes great!

This is a resident Eating Disorder Pigeon, flopped on the needs-a-mow grass having just munched all the Brussels Sprout seedlings in the veggie patch. Moral to the story: Stick to indoor seed sprouting and you'll never know such heartbreak!

38 thoughts on “How to grow your own sprouts

  1. That evil little pigeon! I hope you glared at him.

    Thanks for the info on sprouts! I think I might actually be able to pull this one off…though I’ll probably have to set up a reminder to rinse them…

  2. I bought a sprout grower. Much easier then the glass jar. A lot more forgiving if you forget to bath. My son loves sprouts. It is the only veggie he will eat right now. Your right about the prices. Same here in the states. So much cheaper to grow your own, convenient and fresh. Happy Sprouting!

  3. Shauna:

    Loved this post. I’m originally from India but living in California right now. Just wanted to say that these sprouting containers are very popular in Indian grocery stores in our area. Since Indians are often vegetarians, we eat a lot of lentils/sprouted lentils. We make tons of salads with sprouted mung (and many other lentils). I sprout lentils by soaking them overnight. Then I drain them, spread them in a moist towel and store this in a cool dark place. In a day or two, my sprouts are ready to go!

  4. Dude. The sprouts look like parasites. Don’t know if I could eat them even knowing how good for you they are!

  5. I love sprouting mung beans.I do mine in a glass biscuit jar. They are an absolute lifesaver in the winter if you don’t want to buy salad stuff from far away. I love ’em in a cheese sandwich.

    I was thinking about you today Shauna as I read a recipe for ‘hedgehog cake’ with Tim Tams over at Stonesoup.I’d only heard of Tim Tams from your book. The suggested substitute for UK readers was Penguin biscuits. The general consensus of opinion amongst the comments was that Penguins were a poor substitiute indeed.

  6. Ordinarily I despise pigeons and their stupid bobbly heads, but this one has won my heart with his combination of laziness and petty theft.

    Maybe he’s merchandisable? You could start your own Healthy Eating line and he could be your urban-but-relatable urban mascot!

    Oh, I’m already designing the tie-in apparel…

  7. Love sprouts, especially all those slightly peppery, more interesting ones you can get from radish seeds etc. Although I also like the chewiness of sprouted chickpeas. I just do mine in a glass jar, covered in a (clean) dishcloth, fixed with a rubber band. So it’s not a very *fancy* set up. I keep them on the draining board, to specifically remind myself to rinse them. Otherwise I also forget.

    I’ve also found it’s important to remember sprouts increase in bulk, as they’re sprouting – so don’t overfill your container, otherwise you end up with an out-of-control, tangled mass of sprouts that takes over.

    Oh yes, and like Becky, I’ve become rather fond of your pigeon as well.

  8. You’ve inspired me to look into growing sprouts! 🙂 (You, and the $2 I paid for a container of broccoli sprouts the other day.)

    Living in water-hoarding Northern California, I’d probably catch the rinse water in a pan and use it to water the outdoor plants. (You’d think, living where I do, I’d be growing sprouts already. To accompany my crunchy granola. But then, I don’t make crunchy granola, either.)

  9. Hi Diet Girl

    It looks like that pigeon could probably do with eating some sprouting beans as it looks like it might be on a fast food diet.

    The healing and high nutritional value of these beans is off the scale. A true superfood.

    Love the pics as well

    Have a great day


  10. Thanks for this post Shauna. I want to try growing some sprouts this summer and this info is helpful.

  11. Hey Shauna! I don’t think that’s mold on your lovely radish sprouts. I sprout radishes all the time and even when I don’t forget to rinse, they just look like that when they’re growing.

  12. Look at all those delicious little dicots. I should really do this. I love sprouts on my sandwiches (I have chicken, alfalfa and avocado on mine too, but I add some tomato and some red pepper. Oh, and I mash up the avocado with a little lime juice, salt & pepper, and tobasco sauce :)).

  13. Hello!

    I read your book about a year ago, and was so so inspired! I am quite like you were, in my early twenties and the weight-problems as severe as yours. Now I am finally ready to do somenthing about myself, so I started to read the book again and I wanted to see, if you are still writing a blog. Gladly I found you, you seem like a “bigsister” or mentor to me!

  14. My mum always used a stocking over the jar – then you can drain them through it if you don’t have a sieve of an appropriate size. One could assume it was the clean, new piece of stocking, but one may or may not be correct…

  15. @Rachel – OMG! I saw a website while researching this post that said “don’t freak out if you see white stuff, it’s not mould” but it looked so furry! But now you have confirmed it… will have to give them another try. Thanks comrade 🙂

    @Pubsgal – I collect the water too! It never stops raining here but still can’t bring myself just to send water down the sink. Let us know how it goes if you give it a try 🙂

    @kathryn – good call re the volume! i better add that to the entry!

    @Becky – there is something very endearing about that pigeon isn’t there? i can watch them in the garden for hours. they look so daft with those beady eyes! if i get a decent shot i’ll put it on a t-shirt 🙂

    @Sue – that recipe does look fab! and yes I can report Penguins are an inferior substitue. the chocolate is kinda cheap and waxy…

    @Kalpana – yum! i’ve not tried sprouting lentils but you’ve inspired me to give ’em a go.

  16. Thank you for posting this! I’ve been really interested in learning how to grow sprouts. I love them on sandwiches!

  17. Oh wow, I have had some adventures with sprouting. Things were going well until I didn’t watch some sprouting chick peas. They got really smelly… whew. Alas, I took them outside and they attracted an unwanted animal. All to say… I definitely enjoy sprouting, but if anything ever goes bad, leaving them outside will result in the attraction of pesky-type visitors.

  18. I’ve gone through sprouting phases, mung and lentil being the most economical. I do wish someone would publish an official answer to nutritional value – sometimes I hear that they’re basically like other vegetables, sometimes that they have “20 g of protein per cup”. I tend to assume they have the same protein as the beans but that the starch gets converted into fiber, but I don’t know. Anyway, I’m actually commenting to say that lentils are the best because they taste sweet sprouted (but they don’t grow very long) and mung beans are the worst because of a slightly bitter, tannin flavor. Mung sprouts are best slightly cooked – even just a quick blanch – but it’s easy to overcook them so… Also, you want to avoid photosynthesis mung and lentil sprouts; the green leaves are quite bitter, so those are best to put in an oven or other dark place in the later stages of sprouting.

  19. Since reading your blogs about growing mung bean sprouts, I have been planting away and now have loads. I have been giving them away to friends.

    Thanks for the inspiration


  20. This is great information! My absolute favorite is sprouted lentils. They are delicious and can be eaten on salads or all by them selves. I like to use sprouted mung beans in stir-fry.

    If you have limited space or are on a budget, you can also soak your seeds/beans in a bowl covered with plastic wrap for 24hrs. Drain, rinse and let them sit in a colander wrapped in damp paper towels. When the paper towels dry, re-wet them and squeeze out excess water. In a few days you will have yummy sprouts! I usually wrap the extras in a paper towel and put them in a ziploc bag and keep them in the vegetable drawer of my refrigerator.

    If you haven’t tried sprouting yet, you will absolutely love it once you do!

  21. Hmm, interesting. Especially in light of the huge recall this month for alfalfa sprouts for ecoli contamination. Was it nationwide or only in Cali? I’m not sure – but definitely sounds safer to grow your own!

  22. What a great and healthy idea to make your own sprouts. I have heard the ones you get in the stores have a lot of mould growth, due to transport and sitting ect so I have been avoiding them. I should really try this out!

  23. I’m a bit late with this but I’m so excited I have mung bean seeds and an old pickle jar. Thanks for the instructions. This will be a test on my patience!

  24. HAHAH, that wasn’t mold girl! Those were ROOT HAIRS, they come out looking for nutrients. NOT MOLD!

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